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A Derby Street Food Safari – Part 1

5 Stops On Derby That Will Feed You Well

By The BaldOne


Long ago someone coined the term, “Derby Street Shuffle” to describe the journey from the old Russian Aid Society on Union Street, down Derby Street where a stop would be made at every watering hole along the way.  The shuffle would end on Cousins Street at the Polish Falcons Club.  The stalwarts on that route other than the two previously mentioned were the St. Joseph’s Polish Society, The Derby Cafe, In A Pig’s Eye, The Polish Legion of American Veterans (PLAV), the No Name Pub, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).  The Bunghole was sometimes included as a refreshment stop for the long dry length from Union Street to Palfrey Court.

As time progressed and businesses changed hands Tammany Hall, The Witch’s Brew, and the Grand Turk Tavern also came into play.

Derby Street has evolved further and now there are two walks one could make visiting the many establishments along the way.  Today we will focus on the stretch of Derby Street that begins at Congress Street/Hawthorne Boulevard and continues to Washington Street at Riley Plaza.


Our first stop is one that many seem to miss, Scratch Kitchen.  In their own words, Scratch Kitchen is “a quality driven restaurant with a focus on rationally and locally sourced ingredients.

Our visits there have always been worth the time and money.  Everything is made from scratch, hence the name, to include the ketchup and mustard.  The house-made potato chips are awesome, and the burgers are made with the the freshest grass-fed beef.  Add the onion-bacon jam and some of the house cured applewood smoked bacon and you may have found your new favorite burger.

If pulled pork or real brisket are your game, then you do need to play that game here.

They also serve a proper selection of beers and wines.


Slightly up the street is Brothers Taverna.  This is not the Brothers that you remember.  The cafeteria style concept is gone replaced by table service and a large bar in the center of the room.  The liquor is seasonal, so you will have to wait un April 1 for a drink.  Brothers serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an extensive menu all around.

For breakfast the excellent corned-beef hash is made in house and they offer both home fries and the classic has browns.  We really like the Philly Steak Omelet and the Witch’s Cajun Skillet which is two eggs over easy with salted peppers, onions. potatoes, and linguica topped with melted american cheese.

Lunch and dinner are solid with some of the old favorites liked Baked Lamb still available.  We recommend the house-made meatballs which come pasta and garlic bread.


The Salem Beer Works sits across the street.  They have have been in Salem for a while now  and feature beers brewed on site along with a full bar.  

Theirs is a full menu, but to us the chicken wings are the one thing not to be missed, especially the 9-Alarm version which is not for the faint of tongue. They have all of the typical American items its on the menu.  The burgers make the grade, but we would rather go for the meat loaf.  It is a solid, generous portion with a very good gravy.

The beers change seasonally and there are always a few Salem themed brews on tap like the Bakers’s Island Blonde and the Witch City Red.  If having a little fruit in a beer is your thing this is the place to get that fix, especially in the summer when blueberries and water melon are in season.

If you haven’t been there in a while, be advised that some serious changes in decor were made a few years back.


Right next door is a little place, Cilantro that deserves far more attention than the locals give it.  They have some dedicated regulars from all over the north shore who truly appreciate what can only be described as proper, and perhaps “higher end” Mexican food.  If Tex-Mex is your thing we would suggest spreading your wings and giving this place a shot.  It is small with a full bar and personally attentive service.

The Jalapenos Rellenos made with mild peppers and fresh cheddar cheese are wonderful to start as is the Guacamole with house-made tortilla chips. You can go for the traditional Enchiladas and Fajitas or you can step it up with the Tampiquena which is a Filet Mignon served with enchiladas, rice, beans, guacamole, and Pico de Gallo.  The Albondigas al Chipotle, cheese stuffed meatballs in a spicy sauce served with potatoes are wonderfully tasty.

Stop in and let Esther convert you to the Cilantro way.


Our fifth stop is Bambolina the place with the 900 degree wood fired pizza oven.

The pizza at Bambolina is not what Salem has come to expect over the years.  It is a little smaller, with  lovely bubbles of charred dough that cooks in about 90 seconds in that super hot oven.  Some of the toppings are also a revelation, but pies like the Soppressetta with cured salami, The Fennel Sausage pie with black olives, and the Margherita fill the traditional slot.  We suggest going all out and trying the Brussel & Blue with brussel sprouts, blue cheese,garlic cream, and pancetta or the Truffled Egg and Cauliflower.

They go beyond pizza also.  The Grilled Caesar salad is worth the effort as are the Beef Carppaccio and the Fire Roasted Castelvetrano Olives.  For a full meal the Carbonara, the Bolognese, and the beef Short Ribs will surely be cause for a return trip.

That ends the first leg of this safari.  We will finish the journey next time.



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